The Age of Miracles

Alright? Long time no see. I’ve managed to improve my lot in life. How, you may ask. Well, let me tell you…

It mostly started a few months back. Tired of trying every agent in the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook and getting rejected, I jumped at the chance of attending the 2014 Festival of Writing. I booked my Saturday, sorted two copies of the beginning of my book, and sent them ahead of me for perusal by the agent and book doctors with whom I’d booked discussion sessions.

Thing is, actually getting to York from The Sunshine Coast (A.K.A. not London) was shaping up to be a public transport nightmare. I would have to get a bus to the train station, get a train to The North, change to a taxi to get to the B&B I’d booked, and then rely on buses to get around.

After scratching my head over the possibilities of a flight from Southampton to Leeds Bradford airport, and how I was going to get to Southampton in the first place, and how to get from Leeds Bradford airport to the sodding B&B, I went with ‘fuck that’ and instead went about looking into hiring a car for the weekend.

Quite unexpectedly, I ended up buying a second hand car. A year’s tax and MOT came with it, and I was set. Literally all I had to do to get it to York and back, not a small feat at around an 600-mile round trip, was buy it some engine oil. Now that’s what I call a result.

Anyway, the festival was great. Walking into the hall and seeing all the people - the writers - waiting around just as I was doing was oddly pleasing. People were generally politely curious, happily chatty - ‘What kind of books do you write?’ - ‘Have you seen what Hodder & Stoughton are starting next year?’ - ‘What version of Scrivener do you use?’ - ‘Do you do that thing where you move the scene punchline six times before putting it back where you had it?’ - and so on. Not one person looked at me like I was a flake, someone who pretended to be ‘in the arts’ because they wanted to sound creative. It was… nice.

I don’t like to mix with people. So I didn’t. I was happy to be by myself, and have my one-to-one discussions with the agent (very exciting to hear her enthusiasm for my book) and the book doctor (who pronounced it a 9; if it’d had gone up to 10 or 11 he’d have taken it himself to hand to an agent). I was so stoked; I’d finally got a car, and it was all for booking this epic weekend for myself. I’d had professionals look at my work and decide that it was a biscuit away from being taken on by an actual agent. And to top it off, Saturday night after the festival my sister and I found a really nice pseudo Mexican place that did AMAZING chimichangas. Sorted.

And then it came to pass that my mate had a mate who had an empty top floor in his house. Yep, you’ve guessed it - I jumped at the chance of renting it. Back to no distractions, back to my own space, back to my own time and mood and feeling like I want to spend four hours writing and no-one can stop me. All the notes I got from the agent and the book doctor? Yeah, you bet I’m going to spend the next few weeks and months working on them, on my book, and turning it into an 11. I’ve spent too long sending it out and getting it turned away; this next agent on my list is going to look at this and demand the rest of the manuscript. And then it’ll all snowball into representation and a publishing deal. FINALLY.

A friend of mine once said that the year of the snake was my year. I think this year, the year of the horse, is turning out to be my year.


The end of Doctor Who

Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!
Here be SPOILERS for Doctor bloody Who series 8 episode 1!

I can't. I'm done.

The more time went by after I'd seen the premiere, the more I was bothered, then enraged. Moffat set fire to a living creature and then made jokes about it as she burnt. I don't know where to start.

The humour throughout was lacking. Clara was not annoying but her ‘how dare you’ speech about not fancying the Doctor was shit. She should have said ‘how dare you I’ve seen every one of his lives and I even told him which TARDIS to steal’ (I’m not ok with the last Matt Smith ep but CONTINUITY, Moffat).

Not ok with Matt Smith calling from the past. Poor writing.

Not ok with the Doctor being racist - against Scottish people, then against English people. Stop the Scottish ‘jokes’, Moffat.  No wait - just STOP.

Not ok with so much of this ep.

I’m done. New Who is over for me. I’m not subjecting myself to this any longer, in the hope that it will get better. You win, Moffat; you’ve finally driven me away and that’s an entire household you’ve lost in terms of viewing figures.

I’m going back to the good old years of 2, 5, 9, 10 - and a few of 11. I reject your re-ordering and War Doctor (who should have been Paul McGann, you frelling twat), I reject your sad attempt at humour (aka self worship) and I reject your interpretation of the Doctor.

I’ve tried. I’ve really tried.

But I’m done.


Such as it is.

I used to have a life - things to do, places to go, people to go with, transport to get there. Now I’m stuck in a spare room with no hope of a real place, nowhere to go to because the buses don’t go there and the only people I can go with are few and far between.

How did it come to this, you may ask.

I moved home. I thought it was the best thing to do. I don’t regret leaving Hong Kong and I certainly will not be going back there. But I miss the life I had. I miss being independent and able to get to places, to do things.

I haven’t found an archery club in the nine months I’ve been back. The only good ones are out in Bumblefuck Boonieville, because that’s where the best land is. It’s also where the transport is not. Not a single bus. No train tracks. Mini buses do not exist. In fact, the only way to get there is by taxi. So here I am, looking at Nerys my compound bow, as she sits on top of someone else’s wardrobe in the room I rent, because taxis start at mortgaging your dominant hand in this country.

Pubs. I remember pubs. I remember restaurants. I remember meeting friends there every Friday night for our weekly catch-up and drinking session. I still drink on Friday nights - because I can’t go out and do those things any more.

I drink more.

I remember cinemas. Actual places where you can walk or take a bus to so you can watch a film. I still watch films, but on a 17 inch monitor. I remember John Carter being taller.

I remember having independence. I remember going anywhere I wanted and getting back when I wanted, when I could up and spend a few hours with a friend on the way home from work, or browse an Apple shop in the never-ending high street till 11pm, or stop and get cheap dinner at nearly midnight. Now I have to get the bus home because it’ll take over an hour, and all the shops shut an hour ago, and there’s nowhere open and no-one else around to go out with.

I remember being able to write. Now I dole out paint-by-numbers shit because everything is so dull and lifeless. The most fun I have these days is getting shit-faced at the weekend. Because everything is funny when you’re drunk.

But I’m moaning. I’m harping on about it all being soooo unfair, when I should be grateful for what I’ve got. I’ve got a bed and somewhere to put my bow, and I only have to take two buses to get to work in the morning. I have a job. I have friends. It’s not all as bad as it looks.

You know what? Fuck off. I’m tired of putting a brave face on it all and pretending I’m ok with keeping calm and carrying on. When is enough, enough? Where do you draw a line and say ‘this just isn’t working’? When you get home from work and you can’t even be arsed to get angry about it, that’s when.

Depression is really only anger without enthusiasm, after all.

I have dreams, you know. I’m still trying to get a book published and I’m still dreaming that next year I’ll magically have enough money to be able to move out, or even - GASP! - get a car. --One that runs!

And then I remember that every time it seems possible, something happens and I end up back at square one. No money to speak of, no life to speak of, just whatever I scribble down on virtual paper - the stuff I send to agents who don’t even finish reading it before politely declining my work.

Talked myself into a bad mood. Haven’t done that in a long time. Need to find something to take my mind off it, something to make it all go away for a little bit.

A mindless action movie, where lots of people die. Perfect. No wait - trying to watch it on a 17 inch monitor too far from your bed takes all the fun out of it.

A few hours pounding arrows into a target? Yes please. No wait - I have no club to go to, and I’m banned from using my bow in the back garden.

Write a few chapters, maybe. I’m still putting book eight together, and there’s that Doctor Who story I’ve been working on since… ooh, late last year. No wait - how do you write optimism and fun when you feel like all of that was choked out of you last week, and all you have left is the bitterness of seeing other people still produce it?

Play on my PS3 - Call of Duty: Ghosts, maybe, seeing as I’ve had it three weeks and barely got through the running-through-the-earthquake bit. No wait - it’s really hard when you’re not allowed the sound very high and you’re squinting at the 17 inch monitor across the room. And it doesn’t come closer - there’s no room for it, irony of ironies.

It’s time like these that I need Nine Inch Nails played really loudly. But I can’t do that - I get told you turn it down. I’m 37 years old, and I’m told to turn down my music because the other people in the house - who own the house - don’t want to be a party to it. You know the worst part? I can understand. If I owned the house, and someone started playing music I detested (Justin Bieber, for example), then I’ll bloody well tell them to turn it down too. It’s what you do when you own a house. But I wouldn’t know about that. What it boils down to is that I’m sitting on my bed listening to NiN through headphones to block out the world, and I feel like a petulant teenager.

Fuck it, then. I’ll have a drink. I’ll be a bear with a sore head tomorrow, but I don’t care. It’s the only out I’ve got.

No wait (and you knew this was coming) - I’ve got no vodka left and the shop shut half an hour ago. And, lest we forget, it’s kind of expensive in this country.

I’ll… just… do something else, then. If I could just think of something.

Dying Days

Once upon a time, I did a fic called A Study in Shapeshifting - a Sherlock and Supernatural crossover. I really enjoyed it, but that was another life, another me. I was living in Hong Kong and writing for fun. Then it started to become obvious that my time there was coming to an end - for many reasons. My writing suffered a downturn - couldn’t pull anything off, couldn’t get the write words on virtual paper, couldn’t come up with a single proper plot. I floundered.

Then one day I had an idea, and I wrote some scenes. I knew it would have Sherlock Holmes in it (fuelled by my feelings for season 3 of the BBC series) and I knew it would have the Winchesters in it (fuelled by my undying love for how season 9 is panning out, minus that one hiccup of an episode that We Do Not Talk About).

One I’d returned to England after eleven years of living on a different continent, I went about settling in and getting back to writing. And here we are - another Sherlock and Supernatural crossover. You don’t need to have read the other one to start this one - it’s not a sequel and no references are made to the original (well, one, but it’s not important).

Ladies, gentlemen, boths and neithers, I give you:

Title: Dying Days

Rating: Rated T \ Gen and up (language, fights, weapons).

Deaths of soldiers are haunting the newspapers - soldiers John knew from his former army company. Sherlock needs to find the serial killer before they can come for John, but the killer isn't human. They know this kind of case is not their speciality. If only they had a couple of friends who knew about this supernatural stuff. Oh wait; they do. Enter Sam and Dean - and a few days no-one will forget.

I do not own Sherlock or Supernatural (if I did, there'd be a rewrite of season 3 of Sherlock, and Crowley would have his own spin-off). This is all for fun, not for profit. Unless you add me to any favourites lists or leave comments. Then I profit in the knowledge that someone thinks it’s pretty good. 

Characters: Sherlock Holmes. John Watson. Dean Winchester. Sam Winchester. OC: ally. OC: villain. OC: you’ll have to read to find out.

Linky-link-link: HERE at An Archive of Our Own under my name TozaBoma (because they don’t re-edit your stuff later) and HERE at Fanfiction dot net under my name Mardy Lass.
The first one (A Study in Shapeshifting), if you really want it, is HERE at An Archive of Our Own under my name TozaBoma and HERE at Fanfiction dot net under my name Mardy Lass.

If you even visit the page, I thank you.

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Why I’m Worried About an All-Female Expendables

I really enjoyed The Expendables - and look forward to having time to watch the blu-ray again. The sequel? Not so much. But the first one - ah, the first one. It was direct and did what it said on the tin; no namby-pamby fannying around dithering behaviour, but actual find-him-and-kill-him, do-it-or-don’t-but-do-some-bloody-thing action. I found it funny (sometimes unintentionally perhaps, but funny nonetheless), satisfying (Statham showing the ‘new boyfriend’ what he does for a living) and just plain visceral fun. Guns that would give the BFG9000 a run for its money, tough-as-nails blokes going on about love and life in their own manly way, and just plain blokeishness at its best. Yes, I enjoyed it.

Apparently an all-female Expendables is in the works. Various reports of such stellar choices as Gina Carano and Katee Sackhoff have only served to get me sale-on-at-Things-From-Another-World excited. I began to think of names, of a wish-list, that could be cast - Lucy Lawless, Gabrielle Anwar (OH GOD PLEASE GABRIELLE ANWAR), Kate Beckinsale, Michelle Yeoh, Helen Mirren, Claudia Black, Danai Gurira, Sarah Michelle Geller, Rhona Mitra, Michelle Rodriguez, Judi Dench, Alicia Keyes, Nana Visitor, Gina Torres, Salma Hayek, Lucy Liu, Sigourney Weaver, Pam Grier, Milla Jovovich, Linda Hamilton, Summer Glau, Zoe Saldana, and so on.

And then I paused. I got quiet. I got worried. Why? Here’s the rub: the original Expendables worked so well because it was about blokes, written by blokes, for blokes. Men liked it (I think) and us women liked it too. (Admittedly, half of the attraction was so many sweaty men getting their shirts off, but that’s what men think some men and women like to watch, and they’re not always wrong. And it was only half the attraction.) Can you think of one good female superhero movie? It’s hard. And if you can find one, did it make any money?

Why is this? Why is Ellen Ripley pretty much the only recurring ‘good guy’ female in a lead role? Did you know that Ripley was a man in the original script - and they just changed the pronouns and carried on regardless when they cast Sigourney Weaver? Maybe that had something to do with how well Ripley was written. So why do female-heavy movies tank at the box office? It’s not me, trust me - I always turn out to support women in their celluloid efforts to represent the 51% of the world’s population.

Simple fact: women have to hold their own against men. Horrible fact: women also have to hold their own against other women.

But then. Ah, but then

The internet has come a long way. It used to be about communication. Now that communication has turned into tumblr and other places for fan-worship. Phrases like ‘girl crush’ and ‘babies’ gets bandied about more than a full stop (if you use tumblr you’ll know exactly what I mean). It’s easier today for people to admit (anonymously, of course) that they love actresses like Scarlett Johansson ‘so hard’ - not in an ‘I fancy her’ way (well, not only), but in an ‘I want her to do well’ way. Before this silent revolution, women had two choices: feel indifferent about an actress, or actively despise them because society told you they could never be as good as male actors - or because it simply wasn’t done to be seen doing anything else.

Nowadays there’s a new option: you are allowed to like them, to express how happy you are that they’re getting roles and doing well, to show how much you appreciate that a women is gaining enough of a reputation as an actress and gets the same respect - and pay - as her male counterparts. Attitudes of women to women in film and media are changing - in a good way. Perhaps in another ten years we’ll be able to look at women in film as purely (lead) characters, and not ‘the girl they added to make it look inclusive’.

If that out-of-date view that, because you’re a woman you shouldn’t like women in film, is not the only reason that female-led movies bomb (because people like me go to see how bad it will be out of curiosity anyway), then what could it be? Could it be the writing? Yes - blame the writers! Find their offices and burn them down!

But wait. Writers get paid to deliver a script. They do. Then People In Charge - say, producers, directors, script ‘doctors’, those pesky eev-vil (like fru-its of the devil) mythical studio executives, etc. - decide that there aren’t enough explosions, or not enough clothes-sheddage, or something else that has nothing to do with plot but gets bums on seats. So they tinker. They meddle. And somewhere along the way, the writer’s dream of a perfect female-led thriller/action/comedy vehicle is subverted into Barb Wire.

Once upon a time, I watched Torchwood. I liked it, even though I found Gwen mildly to moderately annoying at times. But overall it was an interesting show and I stuck with it. Then series four came along, and I got back into it. The strange thing was, suddenly Gwen was good. I liked her character - even cheered for her toward the end when we were getting to the Big Reveal and Climactic Finish. Now why could that be? Why had I put up with her as a trivial annoyance for three series, and then suddenly found her a great character? Imagine my surprise when I looked up the writers. Jane Espenson. A woman.

Now this doesn’t mean that only women should write female characters - nearly every comic book writer in the world can write a ‘decent’ female. (And those that do it right? How do they do that, exactly?) But sometimes, when you need just that slight push in the right direction, you need someone who knows. As the great Stephen Fry once reminded Alan Davies: write about what you know, what you can see out of the window. Well, everyone sees women about the place and that’s fine, but when men’s normal cry is ‘no-one can ever understand women so don’t even try’, why are all the action flicks about and for women written by men?

We could descend into studio politics, lack of women scriptwriters, inability to pair good scriptwriters with action flicks because women are expected to dole out Jerry Maguire or the latest rom-com that’s a carbon copy of Sex and the City with plots bolted on by others after the fact. Or we could just accept the entire trope that women scriptwriters need to be friends with Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Fisher or Demi Moore, or they have no hope of getting anything read, never mind accepted. Yes, I know every scriptwriter has the same problem. But when you get to the level of an Expendables film, people start head-hunting.

Who do you go for? Well it’s hard to find a woman who’s already written a good female-led film - because there aren’t any. (At least, I can’t think of any. Please educate me in the comments box - I will thank you.) However, look at women who continually meet deadlines to write TV scripts, or who have previously only managed to sell rom-coms, and the list starts to develop itself. And if you can get a good female scriptwriter, you have a chance at getting a good director. I’d recommend Kathryn Bigelow. Her sweeping of the Oscars with The Hurt Locker (and the way the film came over to me) is credentials enough. Now you need a producer - unless she fancies that chair too.

But I’m being sexist. We do need men to make this work, too - but how male characters in the film are treated is so very crucial. Obviously, how the cast of characters comes over is everything. If the plot is ropey or the dialogue is iffy, you can manage. But if they think that, in this day and age, we’ll be happy with Charlie’s Angels (with more guns), then there’s going to be trouble. Now I love Charlie’s Angels, don’t get me wrong. They got away with it because it didn’t take itself too seriously - and that’s the problem. If an all-female Expendables is all about camping it up and going all Cameron Diaz ditzy cute on us while kicking doors down with unbelievably high heels because it’s what’s ‘expected’, then I’m out (and, for the record, I like Cameron Diaz - although my favourite was Drew Barrymore).

I’m not saying the film should be all serious, but it should at least pretend to be getting on with stuff, so that the chuckles and funny scenes come from the plot running its course, not from someone’s idea of shoe-horning in obvious clich├ęd jokes to pander to certain audiences (some might say ‘Moffet-esque fan-pandering’). Just as the original Expendables needed buddy-time and on-screen affirmation of bonding, the women will need it too. Just, please, do not make them reliant on their luuuuurve interest in a man to make them ‘bond’. Women in the real world make friends and get on with people (people - meaning including both men and woman) without needing to lapse into the awful Hollywood myth that all they talk about is luuuuurve and men - so please let it be the same on film.

I guess what I’m saying is (yes, there is a point to all this), that it’s going to be nigh-on impossible to get the tone just right. Too dark and gritty, too Jodie Foster Flightplan, and it’s going to tank just for its lack of a sense of humour. Too light, too many girlie-giggles and not enough credible action (Gina Carano could smash doors down like the She-Hulk, but Gabrielle Anwar? She’s more a Wing Chun slice to the throat), and it’s going to be derided as fluff for people who don’t get out much - or even worse - a film where ‘chicks’ try to look tough but actually only ponce around looking like out-of-work porn stars. What it needs is an almost James Bond-ish tone - action and excitement and danger and all those things - but with a few sly winks, a few chuckles, a few moments of the characters cheering the sweaty men or women that give them something nice to look at.

And I swear, one crack about shoes or broken nails, and I will find the writers and end them.

* Top gif, of Major Kira from DS9, was gakked from HERE.

I really wanted these pictures included but couldn't fit them in, so they're just added on the bottom here:

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